Wednesday, October 5


First the story:

ANKARA, JUNE 17 - The heirs of Sultan Abdulhamid II, the last Ottoman sultan to rule with absolute power, have filed a complaint for damages amounting up to USD 18 billion regarding 4,200 properties that were once owned by the Ottoman dynasty members and later seized by the state. The first hearing of the case, as daily Hurriyet reports, was held last week, and the second hearing is scheduled for September 30. Scattered around the world, the members of the family will reportedly reunite in Istanbul to attend the hearing. The 48 plaintiffs are even planning to carry the case to the European Court of Human Rights if they lose. Orhan Osmanoglu, one of the plaintiffs and a third generation grandson of Sultan Abdulhamid, defined the case as the "lawsuit of the century," adding that, "If we win the case, then we are ready to settle for a reasonable amount."

Funny, somebody was telling me that with Erdogan wandering around North Africa, he is trying to setup a new Ottoman Empire. Curious that those accusations of Imperialism don't rise that much when talking about the Ottoman Empire, but of course, non European Empires weren't imperialistic, were they? That’s only for the European and American empires, heh. But that’s me being naughty.

They might want to read up what happened to the Indian princely states after independence. They were allowed to retain their titles and official residences, some properties and also were given privy purses. In 1971, the privy purses were abolished and in most cases, the properties reverted back to to the government. Which obviously went into the maw of public corruption. Pretty much most of the motely descendants of royalty are now poor, obscure and fighting over scraps. Here is a sad and poignant story of what happened to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the benighted last Moghul Emperor.

The story of middle-aged Sultana Begum brings tears to one’s eyes. She runs a tea-stall in Howrah to earn a living for her family. Twenty-five years ago her husband Mirza Bedar Bakht, the great grandson of last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, died in penury.

Bedar Bakht sharpened knives to eke out living. After his death, the West Bengal government was approached by several organisations to provide an accommodation for the family. Sultana Begum ultimately got an accommodation but it was near the Red Light District. The goons occupied the house.

She continued to live in the slum. The anti-social elements preyed upon her daughters and she ran hither and thither to get protection for her daughters. Eminent writer Firoz Bakht Ahmad recounts that when he visited the house he stunned at the condition the family was living in. “There was absolutely nothing in the room in the name of household goods”.

The pension ended with her husband’s death long ago. The poignant story of the descendants of the last Mughal who had to see the sight of his own sons’ eyes gouged out and brought to him by the British and was exiled to Burma, proves the failure of the state and more so, the people to acknowledge the contribution of the heroes of our freedom struggle.

How the mighty have fallen.

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